Ongoing Investigations: Case #058

Finally picked up books 3, 4, and 5 (along with 6 through 14) of Swan and am happily diving in deep with it. Even just a few books in, the competition has really been upped a notch as our dancers compete in Russia for both the chance to prove the Japanese have talent and also for a spot in an upcoming Russian revival. All of the rivalries so far have been fair, on the level, but fierce and make each push themselves harder than before. However, they have not leaped into sabotage or foul play which is a easy direction to take such things especially in a series that is as highly melodramatic as Swan is. It is rather amazing how much emotion, suspense, and progress Ariyoshi Kyoko packs into these volumes. Even the tragic downfall of a key player is handled deftly and while Masumi’s fate seems sealed in her future those spinning around her are a different story. Its a beautifully rendered story with some of the most dynamic page layouts I’ve ever encountered. Swan is a highlight of shojo manga that shouldn’t be missed and that I can’t personally put down.

Since I was not doing anything this Labor Day Sunday and Scott kept talking about it, I decided to go see one of Reni’s Japanese “Maid” Shows at Top Tunes. When I got there there was a line to get in and Scott mentionedit was one of the better turn outs. I think being a lazy Sunday before Labor day helped a lot. There was a one drink minimum as a charge which was reasonable, plus Scott and his friend finished off enough drinks that I was covered. Top Tunes itself was distinctly a bar with karaoke as opposed to a karaoke bar so there was a bit of crowding to get up front but nothing unmanageable. Reni sang a mixture of her own songs and anime songs. I got to hear Let Me Be With You from Chobits, Tonari no Totoro from My Neighbor Totoro, and Interstellar Flight from Macross Frontier. Of course she did the Ranka dance because otherwise it would not count. She also did three of her own songs one of which Scott helped write. She also had backup maid dancers for some of her songs which was amusingly odd. Overall it was a pleasant experience, the songs were cute and I got to hear Interstellar Flight which is always great. I definitely would not travel too far to see such a show but anyone in the NYC are might want to give it a look if for nothing else curiosity. I have never been to Akihabara so I don’t know how authentic the experience was but I assume if you went to a similar event in Japan it would be quite the same.

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Ongoing Investigations: Case #039

I just got the third hard cover special edition of Black Jack. It’s Black Jack therefore it is awesome. As with any episodic series you will have you ups and downs. Some stories are amazingly powerful or stunningly cool. Other are quickly forgettable or even downright uninteresting. I have yet to see a bad review of a Black Jack book and you won’t see one here. The real question is whether or not the limited edition is worth the additional eight dollars. They are but there is no reason to pay through the nose when they become rare. The hard covers are well designed and you get a little hard to find bonus story in each book. But the extras stories aren’t that amazing if you have to pay a lot more to get them. Black Jack as a whole is worth what ever you have to pay to get it but there is no need to get crazy. And unless you can’t get over Osamu Tezuka’s old school art style, there is no reason not to go out and read Black Jack.

I am slowly going through all that CMX has to offer by manga-ka Nari Kusakawa. I read the first book of Palette of 12 Secret Colors. It is about an island that houses the most beautiful birds in the world. Along with them they train wizards (called palettes) who use the birds’ bright colors to change ordinary things, like cloth and rocks, into precious treasures that are sought the world over. We follow Cello, a wizard in training, who is anything but ordinary. Her magic doesn’t work like anyone else so she has a hard time learning the basics (she is so bad she has been held back a year in school) but her unique abilities get her into some interesting situations. Cello is a great lead, she is positive, funny, and easy to love. Dr. Guell, who is obviously the love interest, is blunt but funny and caring, so much so you can’t help but root for these two to come together. It continues to show her ability to weave fantasy, romance, and a little comedy into a charming combination. This series is after Recipe for Gertrude and you can really see her art style becoming more refined. I am looking forward to getting the rest in the series.

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